The IDRC team collaborated with a group of six children ranging in age from 6 to 10 for two half-day workshops held on August 14th and 15th, 2023.
During the initial day, the primary objective was to familiarize the children with one another, introduce them to Weavly, and help them gain confidence in using Weavly to create basic sequences. To achieve this, the workshop began with a discussion on coding and its practical applications in everyday life, while also asking the children how they might interact with technology that involved coding in their day-to-day activities. This was followed by an interactive offline coding exercise, where participants built a sequence of directional instructions to guide their teammates from a starting point to a target on a floor grid. This activity helped the children understand how to create patterns, use the functions on Weavly, and understand the concept of “debugging” when an incorrect action card was used. Subsequently, a demonstration of Weavly took place. Each child was provided with access to an iMac and guided through the usage of Weavly using a keyboard and mouse. During the demonstration, they had the chance to explore various features of Weavly, such as the accessibility options, the different backgrounds, the actions the character can be instructed with, playing their sequences, using the loop feature, etc.. Later on, the children were involved in an activity to construct a moderately complex program to move their character to a specified target within a sports-themed background. This activity helped the children understand the trial and errors behind creating a pathway through a series of actions.The final activity of the day aimed to introduce the kids to custom backgrounds. They were encouraged to draw geometric shapes and then fill them with colors and patterns. The day concluded by prompting the children to reflect on potential patterns or behaviors they wished to implement within Weavly.
The focus of the second day was to delve into the custom background feature and brainstorm ways to expand its use. The day began with an unplugged activity that fostered collaboration, team work, and effective communication. Following this, the children utilized Weavly’s custom background feature to design games for their peers. Their task involved specifying the starting and target positions, along with any unique rules for their games, such as “avoid the green cactus”, “stay off the pink flowers”, “navigate around the red and orange lava” and “stay away from the space rocks”. While most kids used the plain background to create their games from scratch, one of the participants built upon the “Space” background and utilized what was already available in that world to create their game. For example, they used Saturn as their target, and space rocks, and meteors as hazards. After constructing their games, each child had the opportunity to experience one or two of their friends' creations, and subsequently, they programmed their characters to follow the game rules.
In the latter part of the day, the children engaged in hands-on generative activities. Following a brief brainstorming session, they began building their own customized Weavly games on bristol boards, incorporating obstacles, patterns, and specific features of their choice using the provided materials (e.g., markers, silly putty). This activity allowed the children to use their imagination when designing games, and understanding how this same process was applied to the Weavly platform. The day concluded with each child presenting their work, and having conversations about innovative elements they had incorporated.
General insights for co-designing with kids
Following every co-design session, the IDRC team takes time to reflect on the process, aiming to enhance the overall experience and create an environment where participants feel at ease contributing to the collaborative work. Here are key insights from this two-day workshop:
- Conducting a two-day workshop proved instrumental in fostering a sense of comfort among the children. The activities of the first day introduced them to each other; to Weavly; and equipped them with the essential skills required for active participation in the subsequent day’s activities. When working with children, it’s crucial to allocate ample time for their orientation before immersing them in tasks aligned with the session’s objectives.
- It became evident that each child had a unique pace of learning. Providing one on one support and guidance to each participant significantly enhanced their engagement. For instance, for those who completed their activities quickly, facilitators assigned additional coding challenges or encouraged them to explore alternative methods to achieve the same results more efficiently. Preparing additional activities to have at the ready is recommended if you predict that the children will work at different speeds (e.g., if there is a large age range). Additionally, for those who required more time and support on the activities, engagement increased when the child collaborated with one of the facilitators.
- The availability of a diverse range of materials to craft the ultimate game in Weavly empowered the children to explore a multitude of ideas and build upon them creatively. This activity also provided the children an opportunity to engage in conversations among each other to share ideas, explore common interests, and enhance their social communication skills.
- In conversations and discussions, it proved effective to draw on examples that resonated with the children’s prior experiences. For instance, asking them about their experiences with obstacle courses didn’t spark many ideas. However, referencing the “Floor is Lava” game, a familiar obstacle-based game, led to children enthusiastically sharing their experiences and elaborating on their approaches to playing the game.
- Recognizing that certain children might experience reservations about sharing their ideas in a public setting due to factors like shyness, perfectionism, competitiveness, or other concerns is important. Creating an environment that offers these children ample time, space, and encouragement to share their work and actively participate is essential. Sensory fidget toys (e.g., silly putty, play sand, yarn) can also provide comfort, relaxation, and support attention. Emphasizing the collaborative nature of the effort and highlighting the significance of each child’s input in enhancing the overall group project was a key strategy.
- A blend of unplugged activities along with activities on Weavly using the computer, demonstrated the need to incorporate a variety of activities in a co-design project with children. This variety allowed children to get practical, understand the underpinnings of coding and Weavly, and apply those skills to a digital setting, all of which enhanced their learning. For example, introducing the children to the first activity on the first day, helped the children use their bodies and environment to learn about the action patterns available on Weavly.
Design suggestions for Weavly
The overall interface seemed to be easy to understand and comprehensive to the participants. Kids were able to independently use the available features including the accessibility options to use the interface. Here are a few areas that we can consider to make improvements:
- The right side panel needs to be simplified as it’s getting too busy with different scene related features.
- All Weavly characters for different backgrounds need to be reassessed to ensure their direction is easily recognizable. This is particularly important for the Sports background as the direction of the trophy was confusing in certain positions.
- The current behavior of the character on the edges of the scene was unclear and sometimes confusing and led to creating drawings that kids didn’t plan for.
- Several kids desired a way to create and draw their own character.
- They expressed preference for having more space on the grid.
- One of the participants suggested having a thinner brush to not fill up the whole cell to be able to make more detailed drawings.
Weavly custom background feature
Here is a list of suggested patterns and behaviors for the Weavly custom background:
|Hazards||Quick sand / lava / Sticky Lava / Fire / Venomous snakes / Poisonous plants / Poison / Electric snakes||If the character touches any of these items it is sent back to the starting position|
|Electric doors / Trap doors / Electric rope||The character gets shocked and has to go back to the start point|
|Green crocodiles / monsters||Character should defeat the creature otherwise back to the starting position|
|Obstacles||Branches / Spikes||They act as roadblocks and character needs to jump over them or crawl under them|
|Angry Cactus||Character needs to creep or hunch down to not awaken them|
|Platforms||Cubes / Flowers||Character can use them to jump over other obstacles like lava or alligators Character can hop on flowers|
|Movements between grid cells||Stairs / Rope / Elevators / Bridge / Tile with a hole in it / Secret doorway / Secret pathway / ladder / Portals / Doors||Moves the character from one cell to another cell on the scene|
|Different pathways||Water||Character can swim - make the character float (add the splash sound effect, make the character horizontal and bounce like it’s swimming)|
|Tunnels||Character can use a shovel to dig a tunnel|
|Teleportation||Doors / Clear pipe / Time machine||Connected to different Weavly backgrounds and take the character from one background to another.|
|Impacts the program execution speed||Sticky squares||Character gets stuck for a set time|
|Wobbly wall||The wall falls/breaks after a set time|
|White flowers||They slow down the character|
|Ice||Makes it slippery and hard to walk on|
|White mushroom||Make the character go fast|
|Prizes||Lucky chocolate||Gives the character super strength to fight the monster|
|Gold blocks||Final prize|
|Collectables||Sword||Collecting the sword helps the character to kill the monsters on its way|
|Friends / Energy blocks||On the way, the character can collect friends or different items to help it defeat the monsters or any other roadblocks|
|Flowers / puzzle pieces||These are pieces that the character collects on their way and at the end the each collected piece can be placed at it’s right spot|
|Wood||Character can grab the wood pieces on their way to build a bridge|